The history of The Phantom of the Opera is a history of adaptation. The 1909 serialized French novel has lead to over thirty film adaptations between 1916 and 2014, eight television adaptations, and more stage adaptations than I can count. Despite the overwhelming number of adaptations, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical, has become the definitive modern take on Phantom. The current touring production of Phantom of the Opera succeeds at a daunting task: it takes an adaptation that has thrilled audiences for thirty years, and proves that a new production can still captivate in new and exciting ways.
The show is consistently engaging. Despite having seen over a half-dozen productions of the musical, the balancing act of melodrama and comedy remain captivating. The voices of the cast were exceptional. Finally, the sets and production were something truly remarkable. The scene transitions made the sets feel alive as they gracefully spun the plot from location to location.
For those unfamiliar with the show, the Phantom is an outcast with a disfigured face living in hiding under a Parisian Opera House. He teaches Christine, a young dancer at the Opera how to sing, and obsesses over the girl in the process. When the opera house is sold to Christine’s childhood friend Raoul, Christine enters an unexpected love triangle. Raoul attempts to woo her while keeping the opera house safe from their ‘Opera ghost.’
The show’s drama centers around the ways the two men attempt to show their affection for Christine. With this current viewing, I was struck by how much the show treats Christine purely as an object of desire for the two men. Christine’s central role in the show is to use her beautiful voice to manage the two men — keeping the Phantom from harming Raoul, and keeping Raoul from angering the Phantom. The two men, to a greater or lesser extent, use Christine against her wishes to achieve their goals. In 2017, this central dynamic felt more troublesome than it did when I saw the musical two decades ago. More often than not, it felt more like I was watching two dogs playing tug of war over a chew toy.
Still, while most of the plot revolves around Christine and the Phantom, some of the most enjoyable scenes involve the running of the Opera. For instance, the two business men Raoul has running the opera must weigh the Phantom’s desire for Christine to be the star of their shows with the ego of Carlotta, their existing Prima Donna. These moments of managerial strife successfully manage to joyfully lighten the mood.
The current production of The Phantom of the Opera is a joy to see. Thirty years on, not only is it possible to enjoy the music and plot, but this production is proof that the show is able to feel new and exciting.
The show is running at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis until December 31st. For more information about the show and how to get tickets click here.
*This post was guest written by Chris Kinniburgh
*Photo credit: Derrick Davies as The Phantom and Eva Tarares as Christine Daaé. Photo by Matthew Murphy